The monsoon finally came and broke the heat. So now I can do things I couldn\’t even think about doing while it was hot–like clip the dogs\’ nails.
My nail clipping method requires me to be in intimate proximity to the dog. I usually end up covered in German Shepherd undercoat (creamy white in Lexi\’s case, gray in Wolfie\’s) with a thin layer of long red hairs (Bisou\’s) on top. A smattering of nail clippings combined with grit from the sander that I use for Lexi\’s nails also adheres to my sweaty skin. You can see why I don\’t like to do this in hot weather.
On nail-clipping mornings, I collect the treat bag containing little pieces of mozzarella from the fridge. Then I spread the special dog-nail-clipping sheet on the floor beside my bed, and turn on the high-intensity lamp. I don\’t have to call Wolfie or Bisou. The minute they see the treat bag they know what is coming. They love nail-clipping day.
I always do Wolfie first, because he is so well-behaved and I want him to inspire Lexi and Bisou. I sit on the floor with my legs stretched out, make him lie down between them and then roll over on his back. As soon as he does that, I deliver the first piece of cheese. I then proceed paw by paw with the clippers, administering praise and treats as I go.
Sometimes Wolfie moans and yodels as I clip, which makes me laugh. He also sighs a lot. Usually when I\’m halfway through with him, Lexi appears–these days she only comes upstairs for the cheese that goes with nail clipping. But with nail clipping we don\’t observe seniority, and Bisou is next.
Thanks to the excruciatingly good care and grooming she got from her breeder, Bisou is fine with manicures. The only problem is that she wiggles too much, because of the cheese. And because she is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, she has long, thick tufts of hair growing between her toes. Not only does this make her look like she\’s wearing slippers, but it makes the nails hard to find. Fortunately–because I do this ritual every two weeks–I only need to cut the very tips.
Lexi is terrified of having the clippers come anywhere near her nails, so for her I use one of those flat gizmos to which you attach a strip of sand paper. The tool is designed for sanding drywall, but it works fine on Lexi\’s nails, which are long because she doesn\’t wear them down by running around.
I start on the hind feet, which are the hardest. Lexi has terribly arthritic hips, so I understand that this is uncomfortable for her. But it\’s uncomfortable for me too, as I lean over her in a forward bend (it\’s a good thing I do yoga) to grasp a hind foot. No sooner have I done this than she kicks me with the other foot, scratching my arm. \”Gentle, Lexi,\” I admonish her. She puts back her ears and wags her tail, but I can tell she\’s worried. I give another swipe with the sander, and she kicks again. It is, I believe, almost involuntary. On we go, nail by nail, swipe, kick, scratch, swipe, kick, scratch.
Struggling with Lexi and with my rising temper, I wonder, when did this clipping of dog nails begin? I don\’t remember ever clipping a dog\’s nails until sometime in the 1990s. Yet before that none of my dogs developed foot malformations or got into difficulties because of their nails. I guess I started clipping dogs\’ nails about the same time that I began to brush dogs\’ teeth. That\’s what comes from reading too many dog books.
I give Lexi a treat, then go to the other hind foot. Sometimes she eventually relaxes. Other times, it\’s a struggle all the way through. One thing that invariably happens is that I skin my knuckles with the sanding tool.
The forefeet are easier, and I manage to get a couple of millimeters off each nail. When I finally say \”O.k.!\” poor slow arthritic Lexi gives a fish-like leap to her feet, snaps one last treat from my fingers, and streaks downstairs.
I put away the clipper and the sander, return the cheese to the fridge, and shake the sheet and myself off outside. Then I get out my calendar, count two weeks from today, and write \”dog nails\” on the July 24th slot. I hope it\’s cool again on that day.
I absolutely could never have a dog. And your questions are good ones. I don't remember people clipping their dogs' nails when I was growing up. But maybe they did and I just didn't know about it.
i've never clipped my dogs' nails. i don't brush their teeth, either. i know i should but riley has a terror of toothbrushes. i don't know where he learned it, but when he sees one, he bolts from the room. even if it's not intended for him.
ps i think clipping became popular as people walked their dogs less. dogs' nails wear down if they're running around (especially on pavement), but if they're sedentary (as so many dogs are these days) then they do require trimming.
Indigo and Laurie, my theory is that nail clipping and tooth brushing came along with bike helmets for kids. In those golden olden days of yore, kids rode helmetless around their neighborhoods (being watched by stay-at-home moms wearing aprons) while the dogs ran loose behind them, wearing down their toenails in the process.
I think this came in when vets decided to market to customers whose dogs were their children or grandchildren and they could make more money. Little did they know that your granddad had been a vet. I don't do this and am amazed that you do but I'm amazed at almost everything you do.
BTW: Great game today and congrats on Spain winning the World Cup!
mrb, you and Laurie are making me wish I could stop! But I've got Wolfie and Bisou so trained to it (though not Lexi) that I think I might as well keep it up. Plus, country dogs who run on dirt have a harder time keeping their nails short.